Project SENA Founders Provide Help in Nepal to Raise Money for Native American Youth
DOCTOR BRINGS SIGHT BACK TO NEPAL
January 21, 2015 Features, Local News
By Tracy House
Recalling his youth in a poor country, Dr. Pravin Dugel said he and his wife strive to raise their children to remain humble and engaged. Traveling overseas with his daughter, Brenna, to restore sight to the Nepalese was a natural progression.
Dugel is the managing partner of Retinal Consultants of Arizona, with 25 offices in Arizona, including two in Scottsdale. He has had a longtime interest in human development and international ophthalmology.
Taking his expertise to Nepal over the holiday season was part of Dugel’s mission to provide free eye care to those who are in need. Working with Dr. Sanduk Ruit, an ophthalmologist and founder of the Himalayan Cataract Project in Kathmandu, Dugel and Brenna volunteered for 10 days in the remote areas of Nepal.
Brenna, an eighth grader at Phoenix Country Day School, said she went to discover more about nonprofits and learn from Ruit. While in Nepal, Brenna took photographs of her journey.
“I wanted to be able to capture the stories of all the people that I met,” she said.
While her father performed surgeries, Brenna, with the help of Ruit’s daughter as interpreter, took photos of the patients and asked for their stories. She is planning on creating a book with the proceeds going to the Himalayan Cataract Project and Project SENA.
Dugel operated on some patients who had traveled as many as seven days to the outreach camps. Some walked and hitchhiked, while others were carried on a loved-one’s back.
“You realize when they can’t see, it’s not just that they can’t see, it’s that they can’t live,” Dugel said. “They can’t work, they can’t eat. There’s no social support whatsoever. They’re left in a corner, they can’t interact, so these patients are very sickly, very gaunt. The whole family is outcast because they can’t survive. These are patients that are not just not seeing, they’re not living. These are patients that not only need to be fed, they need to be housed. All of that is provided for and that’s what makes this so special.”
Brenna spoke to about 35 people. She recalled a man who was blind and could not provide for his family.
Spotlight-NNS-Rev-011515-2“He started to lose his sight and lost his job, so he couldn’t send his children to school anymore,” Brenna said. “All of his children had to drop out of school; two of them had to find jobs and the other four were going to have to stay at home and farm. This man had never been able to see his youngest daughter. Within 10 minutes, Dr. Ruit was able to remove his cataracts, so now he’s able to see again and he’s going to have a higher quality of life being able to get back his job. He’s able to see his family and spend time with them.”
Another woman Dugel worked on was finally able to see her child after the procedure. “We have an amazing video of her seeing her 3-year-old child for the first time,” Dugel said.
Dugel said he operated on more than 400 patients during his stay in Nepal. The cataract removal takes seven to 10 minutes.
“It’s not just math, it’s the quality of restoration of sight,” he said.
“In these eye camps, the vast majority are done absolutely free. Not only are they done for free, they’re housed for free, they’re fed for free and they’re transported for free. Their post-operative care is free.”
He said there are some patients who do have the means to pay for the procedure and that money is used to offset the medical expenses for those who cannot pay.
“There’s an amazingly sustainable effort of having a minority of patients who are able to pay…to sustain those patients who cannot pay,” Dugel explained.